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My family makes fun of me for learning languages, particularly Asian ones. Why?

Since I was a kid, I have been exposed to new languages everyday and I always had a passion for learning languages. I was always good at remembering and learning languages. I always did well in my Portuguese class in elementary school, even though we didn't learn that much and I don't remember much now, but I still retained some knowledge after all these years. I was also one of the best students in my Spanish class in high school and by the third year when we were taking advanced Spanish, I was one of the few that passed, let alone got an A. While a lot of people forget whatever language they learned in high school, I actually surprisingly retained a decent amount of knowledge and I can speak Spanish on a conversational level, but I am not fluent at all. I believe I am a glossophile by nature and I tend to take interest in a lot of things.

2 years ago, I got into kpop and recently I have been starting to learn Korean and Japanese as well as improving my Spanish. I don't know what it is about asian languages that makes me family make fun of me and comment on it all the time, but my sister always says stuff like "you're so obsessed with Asians" when she hears me listening or watching Korean or Japanese stuff and my mom even says it too. They make me feel like I need to be in a psych ward or something. She kind of resents how I didn't learn her native language of Yoruba, yet and I quote "you can speak other people's languages". I think it pisses her off so I think that might be a reason why she always makes fun of me, but I always wonder why my family doesn't have the same reaction when they see me learning Spanish on Duolingo. In fact, my sister is always asking me for help with her homework and my mom likes to lowkey brag about how her daughter knows Spanish so "you should be able to understand what this says". She even asked me if I could talk to the Spanish employees at the local meat market. She was kind of joking but anyways, if I was listening to Shakira or Ricky Martin, they would just think it's cool, and she even speaks some Portuguese she knows too from work all the time and a little Spanish as well. My family has shown quite an aversion to Asian culture in general (I'm not implying they're racist, but they have said some questionable things) and they think it's strange for me to be interested in Asian languages. She found my notebook one day after I practiced Korean and she asked if I was learning Chinese again (Another thing. They think all Asian languages are Chinese or Japanese).

I just wonder why they think learning Japanese or Korean or Chinese is weird but not Portuguese or Spanish or French? My sister made fun of me for writing Chinese characters once (even though our other sister literally took Chinese in middle school and they thought it was cool) and my mom will always say in front of everyone about how I love Asian culture as if I'm some foreign geek or bookworm. Then she will turn around and say to other people how smart I am and how good I am at languages. It just hurts that they treat it like I'm hiding something or something bad.

May 19, 2017



Monolinguals are often jealous of multilinguals, for the same reasons that some people are jealous of the bright. They want something they don't have, and resent those who do have it. This often-unrecognised envy makes them feel insecure, this becomes anger, and is then in turn expressed as hostility or ridicule.

This has happened to people who enjoy academic pursuits since we first banged rocks together: People naturally fear what they don't understand, and if they don't understand your desire to learn about Asian culture or language then this fear will express itself in the aforementioned ways.


Yes... instead of their feelings leading to hurting multilinguals, they need to divert it into action! If they could succeed in learning another language, best solution.


jealous of the bright

I don't agree with "jealous of the bright", I do agree with the rest. Rather than jealousy, it makes people feel insecure (as you mentioned) and inadequate / incompetent / unqualified. Even suggesting that somebody is of "average intelligence" tends to make them feel insecure, angry and inadequate, with them rejecting the notion that they're of "average intelligence". Pretty much "everybody" thinks their intelligence is above average (Dunning–Kruger effect), therefore there's little jealousy when it comes to intelligence as people simply tend to believe they're as intelligent or more intelligent.

I often see people who think an intelligent person is stupid because they don't understand something he says, therefore assuming the smart person is stupid or wrong (or simply hate the smart person). I've especially noticed this trend when it comes to statisticians (example from my experience). The number of complaints statisticians get from people who simply don't understand statistics, unbelievable... When people don't understand an intelligent person they'll just think he's wrong / stupid or simply hate him, but rarely they're jealous, they "always" think they're also capable of doing the same thing "if they want to" (which is sometimes true as you can't specialize yourself in everything, but it's also often untrue).

Just to be extra clear, my reply is focused on intelligence (being bright, as I quoted) rather than knowledge (learning a language).


Never be ashamed of your passion for other cultures and languages.

This happens to me too somtimes. Most people tend to see languages like German/French as serious and dismiss other languages, especially distant ones, like Chinese. My mother uses questionable words to speak about "chinocadas" too... sigh

Once I was practicing German and 中文 and a (bilingual!) guy told me "It's very good that you're learning German, but why would you learn Chinese? That doesn't make any sense."

You can change their cultural prejudices by showing them how wonderful that culture is, and telling them that you just love learning languages and that they should respect that.

Most people may not understand your passion, but someday you may bump into another asiaphile and you'll feel understood :)


EXACTLY! WTF? Some of them just think of Asians as greedy Chinese people that charge you too much for hot sauce. I'm serious! I think one of my family friends said it best: "Chinese is becoming a much more popular language. If you go to China, they will love you!


Prejudices and/or failures to realize the inherent value in all languages would be my go-to guesses usually. Imagine the looks I get sometimes when I talk about Esperanto.


I'm just curious. Why is Esperanto so popular? If I told them I was learning that--the reaction I would be hilarious.


Skipping the obvious "don't be ashamed to be yourself, learning is good, they're just jealous" kid show stock response, it sounds like a mix of two factors. Understandable ignorance and weeaboo akin concerns.

First of the ignorance. Pretty much every western born person can't tell different Asian languages apart because they wouldn't have had a reason or desire to learn. It doesn't help that almost all Japanese characters are Chinese so natives can have the same issue. You will also have this flaw but for other languages. There's far too many for anyone to separate them all.

As for the weeaboo akin concerns. There are a lot of people who go beyond a healthy interest in languages and culture. This typically happens to Japan (so I will use it for examples) but Korea's gaining traction too. They are straight up obsessed to the point that their identity is consumed by their twisted interpretation of Japan (they likely got from anime/manga) and they treat Japan like a fashion label. For example, they like, buy and do things they otherwise wouldn't purely on the basis of its origin. These people give the general public a very bad impression for the rest of us (I'm learning Japanese too) so I understand outsiders having scepticism of my intentions. The same doesn't happen to your Spanish and my French simply because these languages aren't known for the same idle worship.


My mom considers going on a Kpop celebrity's Instagram or just listening to Asian music Asian worship though, yet the same cannot be said for my younger sisters who listen to black dominated hip-hop music and are on famous people's Instagrams all the time. As for the language barrier, they think every Asian language is Chinese/and or Japanese, even though Korean, for example, is obviously different from Chinese and other Asian languages. It has a very distinct writing style. You're right. It is ignorance. At the same time, however, I think idiocy is part of the issue, I feel.

[deactivated user]

    I guess it's not your family...i guess it is the prejudice of Jp/Kr (and so on)= anime, manga - stupid stuff.I tell you one episode that happened once and another example. It happened o with some of my old friends that laughed at me because there was in a shop a dvd of an anime; they started to look at me because once they got me with a picture of Hatsune Miku (a vocaloid, a software, if you don't what it is, go on wikipedia ;) ) as avatar in my cellphone...for this stupid reason they laughed at me every time they find something that is related to Japan because they thought i was a sort of nerd of anime....so idiots. Once i watched a video of a popular tv show in USA (i guess, i'm not sure) where they showed a performance of Hatsune Miku for the first time....because it was an hologram, people started to laugh because it's an hologram,a thing that cannot exist, so it is weird and people laughed....ok, everyone has a different opinions but...sincerely i don't see anything funny, because it is a software that allowed to create a song from zero with your own hands so...i think it is an awesome thing but since people see that is "abnormal" they start to say things like " it doesn't exist", "it is an anime" "it is a cartoon" so it is catalogated as "weird"....more or less the same thing happened with your family. "It is useless so why are you wasting your time in a language that has spoken only in Japan/Korean?" this is probably the thought they have your parents, which is stupid because knowing a language is always a useful thing, you discover a new way of thinking, a different culture, and maybe you'll find some new friends. They do this kind of thought just because is not popular like the usual languages like spanish, french and so on.I'm curious to see if they laugh at you if you chose chinese instead of korean and japanese.

    Don't listen to them and follow your passions. I know that is not easy but ignore them.I started to study portuguese, swedish and japanese but not for this i won't stop because for other seems "useless" "stupid" and so on....this is the kind of people i like to call ignorant, because they are immature to think in this way, learning a new language can open the mind and they should do it for sure.


    Yeah. I remember one time when my sister was looking through my phone, and she found a bunch of pictures of k-pop idols in there, and she was acting like she found the numbers of drug dealers on my phone.


    I get the same thing too, with being half Ivorian and half American. People think its weird that I want to learn Russian, this is sooooooo relateble . Just remember that they have no input in what you can and can't learn. Its your brain and YOUR time. It's not like you learning Asian languages is going to affect them in any way, right? It has absolutely NOTHING to do with them. Keep on learning the languages you love. Don't stop just so you can please others.

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